Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Conversations from grad school

"Why wouldn't you just mark A?"--My classmate on the "expected grade" portion of our end of class surveys

"My better is better than your better."--Another classmate

Coffee and Snow

for all the people who were snowed in in Seattle.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My father says that I don't post here enough

Which is probably true, although it's only been 4 months. There are tons of people who take way longer hiatuses than that. How are things? Things are ok from where I'm at. Although to be honest I don't have much to say. Any time that I'm not eating or sleeping I'm probably working. Which is why over the break I got my annual celebratory post-final getting really sick. It was exciting. I've got a couple pictures leftover from other places not LA that I'll post at some point. Taking pictures in LA is kind of weird. People look at you funny, which makes me self conscious. Why can't I just take pictures of signs and shadows like I used to in the NW?

Anyway, for the last couple days I've been too tired and lazy to contemplate doing much of anything productive or scholastic. So instead I looked at art. Some of these people live here or close to here, which kind of makes me want to stalk them. But I won't. One of my favorite new finds is Deth P Sun. If anyone is still reading this thing, go knock yourselves out. I'll be back. Or maybe I won't.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Observations so far

I've been in LA for about a month now. Not a whole hell of a lot to report so far. Although apparently it's a HUGE faux pas for grad students to use the undergrad library. Even if it's prettier and nicer. The business library is the best one, although its 4th floor is apparently a VIP section for VIP business students. On a certain level, this seems kind of natural for a business library.

My general opinion on the undergrad/grad divide is that the graffiti in either library seems about equally inane. Considering the age gap, this doesn't reflect well on my peers now does it?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Superhero movies

I honestly think I'm maybe a little bit too much of an analytical machine to watch superhero movies anymore. The subtext just gets to me. Recently the last two movies I've seen in the theater were Iron Man and The Dark Knight. I really disliked Iron Man, mostly on the grounds of class antagonism, the protagonist is a rich, immature, selfish bastard who has had everything handed to him. He has one setback and then supposedly reforms.

I also objected to the whole setup on racial grounds, hell, he even had a noble savage helping him out who predictably sacrifices himself so that our hero can live. The day that ethnic characters no longer have to sacrifice themselves for the white protagonist is a day I'll die happy.

There's also the dubious message of stopping violence by um, blowing more shit up. If it was supposed to be an anti war movie, it really failed. Although like the time I watched the Transformers movie, it was interesting to see the presence of Iraq in the film. There's a paper waiting to be written there.

The Dark Knight is a much better movie. Although thematically, I think it also gets a little murky. The idea of the righteous vigilante as well as the incorruptible Batman get a little muddled. Batman definitely does bend the law, kidnaps and tortures people. Works outside the law and is only accountable to a higher authority, yet somehow he's assumed to have limits. Does he really? It seemed like the movie was attempting to have its cake and eat it too.

I'll admit it, I enjoyed the film, but these things really bothered me. However, the cast was remarkably ethnically balanced even if most of the main leads were white. At least the HK gangster spoke good English, although he also spoke in Mandarin. Which isn't very believeable in HK. But that's a minor quibble.

So Cool

Why can't I think like that?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Conversations from my life

Me: I really really really need to pack.
My boss: I don't want to hear about it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

You know

sometimes I get really fed up with my apparent inability to take people at their word and trust that they'll follow through. I actually have some really good reasons, since I've gotten burned hella. And usually when I do rely on other people, it doesn't go very well. But at the same time, sometimes I wish I could just take people at their word. It would be a lot more emotionally healthy and I would save myself a lot of worrying time that could be devoted to be something else.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Conversations from a non-profit

Vietnamese American coworker (setting other Vietnamese coworker up on a date): He drives a BMW, he works at Boeing....
Vietnamese American coworker 2: But is he interested in social justice?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Full Fathom Five

by Silvia Plath

Old man, you surface seldom.
Then you come in with the tide's coming
When seas wash cold, foam-

Capped: white hair, white beard, far-flung,
A dragnet, rising, falling, as waves
Crest and trough. Miles long

Extend the radial sheaves
Of your spread hair, in which wrinkling skeins
Knotted, caught, survives

The old myth of origins
Unimaginable. You float near
As keeled ice-mountains

Of the north, to be steered clear
Of, not fathomed. All obscurity
Starts with a danger:

Your dangers are many. I
Cannot look much but your form suffers
Some strange injury

And seems to die: so vapors
Ravel to clearness on the dawn sea.
The muddy rumors

Of your burial move me
To half-believe: your reappearance
Proves rumors shallow,

For the archaic trenched lines
Of your grained face shed time in runnels:
Ages beat like rains

On the unbeaten channels
Of the ocean. Such sage humor and
Durance are whirlpools

To make away with the ground-
Work of the earth and the sky's ridgepole.
Waist down, you may wind

One labyrinthine tangle
To root deep among knuckles, shinbones,
Skulls. Inscrutable,

Below shoulders not once
Seen by any man who kept his head,
You defy questions;

You defy other godhood.
I walk dry on your kingdom's border
Exiled to no good.

Your shelled bed I remember.
Father, this thick air is murderous.
I would breathe water.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Reasons which make it difficult for me to not hate white people

When I am introduced to my roommate's parents and her mom acts like I'm hearing impaired, gesturing to herself and saying her name loudly and slowly.

In my own fucking house, in my own fucking house.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Journey From The Fall

I don't know what took me this long, but I just finished watching Journey From The Fall directed by Ham Tran a few hours ago. It's probably a bit premature to write about it, because I'm still in the process of unpacking what I think about it.

But it's pretty clear just from the opening shots that Ham Tran isn't just making your average movie. The storytelling seems to be a turn off for some people, since it skips and jumps through different points in time. Perhaps I'm just pretentious but this type of storytelling works well for me, it adds complexity to my response to the film, since often I know what's going to happen. It may make the film a bit more difficult to follow, but I kind of like having to piece things out for myself. And I think that Ham Tran also manages to craft a pretty convincing and effective narrative out of such a complex and challenging way of telling it.

The movie is pretty unrelenting, but none of the violence or plot developments seem unnecessary. Each character works according to their own type of logic but none of them seem forced or improbable. At the same time, Tran definitely tells the story by showing rather than telling. There's one particular scene that sticks in my mind, he never explicitly shows two characters being intimate, but simply the way that they interact in the scene speaks volumes about their relationship.

I've been on a run of horrible movies, the low low point being the totally awful Iron Man. So discovering Journey From The Fall, albeit belatedly, I heard about it on Angry Asian Man, was doubly a pleasure. Go find this movie and watch it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

James Baldwin

Recently I've been reading James Baldwin's Notes of a Native Son, which is pretty awesome. It's rare I find a book which makes me want to underline everything in it, but that's definitely what I'm feeling here. I like essays sometimes because it's kind of like listening in at the most witty person at a dinner party expound at length on things. However, in Baldwin's case, sometimes it's depressing how little has actually changed in America since the time he wrote the book.

"one cannot help but observing that some Negro leaders and politicians are far more concerned with their careers than with the welfare of Negroes, and their dramatic and publicized battles are battles with the wind. Again, this phenomenon cannot be changed without a change in the American scene. In a land where, it is said, any citizen can grow up and become president, Negroes can be pardoned for desiring to enter Congress."

Another passage that really struck me

"They face each other, the Negro and the African, over a gulf of three hundred years--an alienation too vast to be conquered in an evening's good-will, too heavy and too double-edged ever to be trapped in speech. This alienation causes the Negro to recognize that he is a hybrid. Not a physical hybrid merely: in every aspect of his living he betrays the memory of the auction block and the impact of the happy ending. In white Americans he finds reflected--repeated, as it were, in a higher key--his tensions, his terrors, his tenderness. Dimly and for the first time, there begins to fall into perspective the nature of the roles they have played in the lives and history of each other. Now he is bone of their bone, flesh of their flesh; they have loved and hated and obsessed and feared each other and his blood is in their soil. Therefore he cannot deny them, nor can they ever be divorced."

It's probably one of the clearest articulations of what I've sometimes felt myself in relation to race relations and diaspora in America. Go figure, James Baldwin just said it first.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some film thoughts

You know how 2046 was a kind of mediocre mashup of every theme Wong Kar Wai had played with in his entire film career? A sort of self referential exercise in narcissism?

I just got done watching Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Retribution, which I, uh, found, on the internet. And although it's less self indulgent, simply because I don't think Kurosawa is as successful as Wong Kar Wai, so he gets less money, it's a similar sort of concept. Essentially it's a rehash of some of his old themes: the power of dreams, delivered no less by Jo Odagiri who starred in Bright Future, a meme of violence coming from some undisclosed source of discontent lodged in the past like in Cure, ghosts as figures of human loneliness, like in Pulse, an angry detective with tendencies towards police brutality played by Koji Yakusho, practically every movie Kurosawa has ever made. Interestingly, I felt that his dislike of women came out more strongly in this film. Women have always been disruptive or malevolent forces in his films before, but there's never been so much violence against women as there is in this film. It's pretty clear from this review that I have seen a lot of Kurosawa movies and I also didn't really like this one. I really wanted to, even when the film is less than successful, his films are generally pretty interesting and I'm glad I said this one.

That said, the ghosts were really silly. I'm a wimp and I wasn't even scared by them. Kurosawa can scare the shit out of you when he really wants too. A woman dressed in red being wheeled around on a dolly doesn't scare me at all.

I like seeing Kurosawa movies, because strangely when I'm feeling depressed, they make me less so. I'm not sure why watching Japanese horror movies that are really about the human condition make me less depressed. But I'll take what I can get.

Conversation from a visit

Friend whom I haven't seen in 6 years on seeing each other in person for the first time: Can I see your tattoo?
(I show it to her.) Okay, that's reassuring.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Are You A Racist quiz

So apparently there's this big to-do about the test of black men w/ guns vs. white men w/ guns and reaction time. There's apparently been some rending of garments about whether in fact the test takers are racist. I was kind of curious to see if I was racist or not. I guess I've watched TV as much as most people and grown up in urban/suburban areas, and heard enough stories that I should be fairly subconsciously racist, I thought. Imagine my surprise when I saw my results:

Black Armed:874.92ms
Black Unarmed:1020ms
White Armed:849.68ms
White Unarmed:1015.24ms


If I understand these figures correctly. I am slower to react to unarmed people of either race, although slightly quicker to recognize white people as not a threat. However I seem to be comparatively quicker to shoot white men with guns than black men with guns. Go figure. Someone help me interpret this data.

Monday, April 07, 2008

New roommates

We've had some people come and go around my house. One is apparently an Iraqi veteran with PTSD. (Hooray.) She's pretty annoying, but I don't think she's necessarily a bad person.

The other person, is, well, ok. She's very nice, but um, you know, dammit, I'm fairly damn open minded, but really smoking pot at 6 AM is a little early. That's all.

Jesus Christ

Random man: You look like you had a hard day at work!
Me: (laughs)
Random man: Are you a secretary?
Me: No...
Random man: You speak good English.
Me: Thank you, I was born here.
Random man: (awkward silence)
Me (inwardly): Ha, ha, ha.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Yet more pretentious pictures of Seattle


Posted by Picasa

Conversations from the house

"You know what I bet you would be good at, teaching ESL to Chinese people, you have that whole school teacher thing going on." New roommate, also Iraqi veteran, far too old for her age at 21, while also being kind of annoying.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Conversations from AmeriCorps

"In Bellingham, they have a whole club for white people who want to be Asian."

Also in other news, my roommate's cat threw up in my room. Needless to say, I was not thrilled.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Far East Movement- Satisfaction



FM doesn't necessarily make my world a better place, but they're eminently listenable. I'm glad that they've graduated from girls who look like they have naked pictures out there on the internet to women that look like car show models since their last video.

A hilarious moment

Walking behind four punk-ish teenagers, a car drove by blaring bad trance-ish dance music. Simultaneously all 4 of them started dancing on the sidewalk. And as the car drove out of earshot, they kept walking. All without saying anything.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

My new boss or Conversations from work

Me: How do you like Seattle?
New Boss: Oh it's great. There aren't very many blacks or Hispanics here. I feel very safe.
Me: (resisting urge to just leave the room).........I don't think that all black people or Hispanic people are criminals. To self (Just think about the PhD, in only 5 months this will no longer be your problem.)

There are no fucking words sometimes. There just aren't.

This looks really cool

Sometimes movie trailers can be an art. I think no matter how good the movie is, the trailer is exceptionally well put together. Honestly sometimes trailers are better than the movie itself. You can always imagine a better movie from the best images and excerpts. Also trailers have their own certain flow to them. I feel this one flows very well.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Apparently

I'm whiter than I thought. Ouch.

Anyway, for the people who actually know me in real life, yes, I am going to go get a PhD. And live in the middle of nowhere and tell everyone how uncultured they are apparently. I will be going somewhere in Southern California. That much is certain. Most everything else is not certain, which would explain a 2 month bout with insomnia.

More later.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

地下婴儿 -觉醒

Possibly the most American thing I have ever seen

I went to Costco today with my father and his fiancee, and in a cart, I saw two boxes for some weight loss smoothie mix, and a strawberry cheesecake.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bus people

I don't know what it is recently, but people, particularly male people, have a tendency to hit on me in and around areas related to the bus.

This never used to happen before. As an aside, it's very difficult to not make eye contact for half an hour, when someone sits right opposite you and tries to make eye contact. Of course, as one of my roommates says, once you make eye contact, it's all lost. Let's just say my neck is pretty sore.

On an unrelated matter, I recently learned from Stuff White People Like that Mos Def's Ms. Fat Booty is some sort of white people wedding favorite. Given what the song is about, Mos Def tries to woo a lady but she skips on him due to being unable to commit, this seems rather counterintuitive.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Caffiene is like crack cocaine for pansies.

I'm really serious. I bought some coffee the other day, and I'm hoping Uwajimaya didn't lace it with something because I have been abnormally energetic and fucking euphoric all day.

There has been a lot of developments in the land of the loveless cynic. I may or may not be relocating, dependent of course on whether I get funding for a PhD at the end of the summer.

Anyway, one of the places is flying me down to 加州 to take a look on Monday. I'm trying to read up and praying I don't make an ass of myself. I mean they already admitted me, but you never know. I need to go find some wood to knock on now.

Conversation from work

Vietnamese teacher complaining about his grandmother-esque boss yells at him all the time: She kills me all the time!
Me: Maybe she yells at you because she loves you best.
Vietnamese teacher: Oh please.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Um, yes

someday I might have time to think or say something insightful again. Today was a day of schooling young punks, haven't done that since I left Taiwan. I may have a story about that at some point. Anyway, I was feeling sort of gloomy for some reason. Possibly because I didn't go outside all day. This is truly the funniest thing I have seen in a while. You should check it out.
http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com/

Thanks Nien!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I think I'd write more

If what I wrote wouldn't be so depressingly emo. Probably it's better to not say anything at all.

I've got insomnia again. Which makes everything either too fast or too slow. Anyway, I think I've got stuff to say. Maybe later.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bright Future

I've mentioned this film before, but I feel I have a bit more to say about it now. I got the Japanese version for Christmas. Which has an extra 30 minutes in it. I think Bright Future has become one of my favorite existential Asian movies ever. So I was pretty excited to see them. I would say that the extra thirty minutes do not really elicit any breakthroughs or new interpretations of the movie. However, they do serve to highlight far more clearly the central theme of the movie which is stasis or motion. Waiting or moving forward.

I really like aimless youth movies. The movie focuses around two people, Nimura and Arita. Like many people in their twenties, they're in dead end jobs but feeling the pressure to either shape up and develop a "normal" life or continue on in their boring dead end jobs. On the surface, Arita, the more inscrutable calmer one, is able to conform more on the surface. While Nimura is younger and far angrier. This isn't really an ordinary drama though. Neither character is an everyman type of character. Nimura has dreams of the future, and Arita is raising a deadly jellyfish.

The jellyfish is extremely important to the story. Although perhaps its meaning is something that I haven't grasped, even after seeing this movie three times. It represents the future, I seem to remember a critic saying. And it embodies the ambiguities and deadliness of the future. Although whether it promises hope and new beginnings or death is left ambiguous up until the end.

Another theme is the conflict between the old and the young. The future that young people envision is portrayed as being fundamentally toxic to the previous generation.

Anyway, I don't think that my thoughts as I've set out here are all that profound or well thought out, but they've been rattling around for some time now, so I feel I should at least set them down.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Who's a twinkie now!

I successfully made oyako donburi! Hooray! I rarely make Japanese food successfully. My next project might be niku donburi. Or possibly making my father his (overdue) Christmas present pie.

Yes, yes, Dad. I will remember to make you your pie.

Happy MLK Day

I spent the morning washing cars for the Red Cross, because, uh, Martin Luther King was all about washing cars for the Red Cross. It was seriously an exercise in futility since as we were washing them off, the ice was refreezing on the cars. The inner monologue of the Loveless Cynic was basically "Fuck fuck fuck, fucking ice, cannot fucking feel my fucking hands, fuck!" Let it not be said that I do tiresome things with grace. Because I really don't.

Washing cars aside, I sometimes truly dislike Martin Luther King Day from the bottom of my shrivelled heart, because I have to listen to this pablum about how Martin Luther King was a wonderful person who loved everyone. And was an inspiration to all people and how we should love everybody.

This isn't really true. Martin Luther King was a rather conflicted troubled person who did some amazing things, with the help of other people. Some of how he comes across is due to the way his family has managed his image. And part of it is that liberals love us a black Jesus that we can put on a pedestal and not deal with as a real person. Especially when we don't have to talk about his radical and increasingly left wing tendencies. (I had a really good US history teacher in high school which is how I even am aware of as much as I am. Ms. Meyers, you were great.)

I don't think that his flaws or missteps detract from his accomplishments, rather they add to them. It's sort of more amazing that a flawed person could accomplish what he did than if he was some perfect saint, don't you think? Anyway, he asked some hard questions in his life, rather than just the color of skin rather content of character. We should remember that too.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I don't know what to say

at the bus stop
African American man: Speak English!
Asian lady: I speak English. You speak Chinese!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Americorpse (to steal a phrase) training part 2

At one point, someone in our AmeriCorps group turned to me and said, "Wow, our group is so white! You and Amy are the only two non-white people." My inner thought, was the same as what Amy said when I mentioned it to her later, "I knew that the second I walked in here."

There are a lot of things about this set up that I really don't like. For example, our diversity training was a training on how to be a white ally, and overcoming white privilege.

I mean I appreciate the effort to address things, which is way better than the College Which Must Not Be Named ever did. Still, you know, way to marginalize the people of color, dudes.

Conversations at Home

Me: What, you think sound effects that you can't make?
My sister: Sometimes.
Me: Like what?
My sister: Trumpets.
Me: Trumpets?!
My sister: Sometimes.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Primary Thoughts

Yes yes, I know everyone is talking/writing about the primaries. Still. I always liked Richardson for it, since y'know, he's got experience. Which y'know might be kind of important. But then this is America, we value style over substance.

As for the whole Obama thing, well, I can't say that I'm not happy. I always wanted to like him, and I'm glad he's successful, but... Between him and Clinton, I honestly didn't really care. I don't think I'm registered as a Democrat so I can't even vote in the primary, but I'm not sure which one I like better. Clinton is more of a creature of the Beltway perhaps. But probably both of them would do fine as president, and by fine, I mean better than the current one. I guess I liked Obama more since he's from a bit less of a privileged background, and it's nice to see someone rise above that.

But honestly, I don't care. It's probably better to ignore anything that a candidate does or says as soon as they start even considering running for president. Looking at their record before hand will probably tell you a lot more about how they'll do once they're in office.

It will be better when this whole circus is over. Let's hope it's not Huckabee.

Fred Thompson

Whenever I see Fred Thompson on Law and Order I want to throw something at the television. Not only because he's Fred Thompson, but because he reminds me of a particularly heinous boss I had. One, whom some readers of this blog who know me in real life will remember would some times say "Mah partner..." Never fails to send a shiver down my spine.

Let's hope Fred Thompson doesn't start talking about his partner.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Pictures



I hate diversity trainings

I had a diversity training with my AmeriCorps group today. Honestly, I really dread diversity training these days. Particularly since my group was composed of 22 white people, and me and an African American girl. Also the training was titled "White Privilege" which I don't really feel I need to know that much more about. Particularly since it doesn't apply to me. Mostly I dread diversity trainings because they're either really great, or they make me want to kill people. It's a topic I really care about, and it bothers me when someone doesn't get it right.

Anyway, we did this exercise called "Playing Field" it's one of those take a step forward, take a step back etc. etc. So naturally, almost everyone is up in the front. And guess who ended up almost into the closet at the back of the room? Yours truly, the African American girl, and the queer, nontraditional college student.

I've done this particular activity before, but usually in a more diverse group. This time, it was kind of a downer. Like being picked last for the baseball team kind of.

On the up side though, it was kind of a bit of a bonding moment for the three of us. I suspect class plays a bit more into it here rather than race. But I would guess that all three of our parents including mine, are a lot less wealthy than the rest of the participants' parents were. Given how I act, I have a feeling the other two didn't really know that. But as one of them said, it made a lot of sense in some ways. I always sensed I had more in common with the two of them than the others.

So the moral of the story is that my oppression-dar is working well?
To work on Saturday!